My Rating: 4 Stars
Title: Double Crossing
Author: Meg Mims
Publisher: Astraea Press
Genre: Historical Romantic Suspense
Length: 215 Pages
A murder arranged as a suicide … a missing deed … and a bereft daughter whose sheltered world is shattered.
August, 1869: Lily Granville is stunned by her father’s murder. The police believe it was a suicide but she knows the truth. Guilt plagues her, since she argued bitterly with her father about the family lawyer’s loyalty. And only that lawyer knew her father had possession of a valuable California gold mine deed—a deed vital to fight a court battle against another claimant in California. Now the deed and the lawyer are missing.
Determined to track her father’s killer and join her uncle in Sacramento to fight the court case, Lily heads west on the newly opened transcontinental railroad. After her baggage is ransacked in her Omaha hotel room, she realizes she is no longer the hunter but the prey. It seems her father’s killer believes she is taking the deed west to Sacramento. And as things progress from bad to worse, Lily is uncertain who to trust—the China-bound missionary who wants to marry her, or the wandering Texan who offers to protect her … for a price.
Danger, intrigue and a second murder turn this adventure west into true peril. Will Lily survive the journey and unexpected betrayal?
There was a time, long, long ago, when I would devour historicals like candy. Then I got bored. Probably because it felt like I had read damned near every plot imaginable. So to say that I was surprised at how quickly I got sucked into this one is an understatement. This one is like taking all the best things about a former love, combining it with all the best things about a new love and then adding a dash of adventure and intrigue. Don't be fooled - this is not your standard historical.
Lily has been raised well off. She has never had to want for much of anything and has been spoiled by doting parents. This is not to say that she is a spoiled brat. I only point this out because it makes her behavior later that much more courageous. This is also not to say that she hasn't known heartache. Her mother died when she was younger and her father was off fighting in the Civil War. All of this only brings Lily and her father closer and they are friends as well as father/daughter. When Lily's father is murdered in such a way to make it appear as a suicide, Lily knows immediately that this is not the case. After a couple of days in which Lily is lost in a haze of grief, she becomes determined to see her father's killer brought to justice. This sets Lily on a path that will take her across the country in a setting that is rarely seen in a historical romance to the extent that Ms. Mims gives us.
Set during the time less than six months after the Golden Spike Ceremony that connected the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads, the unique thing about this novel is that the majority of it takes place on a train. The author does an excellent job in describing not only the railroad cars and what you could expect to experience on a trip with this new railroad but also the surroundings. As you are reading you can visualize the views from the windows, the little towns or stations that pass by and the towns that the railroad stops in. The sheer amount of research that had to be done to accomplish this is mind-boggling.
The characters are well developed and enjoyable. Lily is the type of character that I really enjoy seeing in novels. Despite her age, she is very spunky and determined. Despite her fear of a killer, she refuses to back down from her goal. She stands up to an overbearing aunt with admiral aplomb and, realizing that she only has herself to depend on, hires protection for herself. She is intelligent, quick thinking and compassionate. The protection she hires for herself comes in the form of Ace Diamond, a ruffian who almost literally falls in her lap. While the motives, and character, of Mr. Diamond remain somewhat elusive he shows himself to be loyal and quite capable of holding up his end of the bargain. The secondary characters of the aunt and uncle, Lily's suitor Charles and her new friend Kate are each unique in their own individual ways, easily distinguishable from each other in personality, behavior and quirks.
The plot is also well developed and the mystery and intrigue will keep you guessing throughout the novel and turning the pages in a hurry to see what happens next. One might think that a train would be limiting in a suspense but given the limitations of the social restrictions of the time period and the fact that the main character is female it only adds to the story.
My only complaint about Double Crossing would be that, for a romance, there really isn't much romance in it. The tension between Ace and Lily could have been built up considerably more and earlier on, which would have added quite a bit to the romantic portion of the story. We also don't get the obvious 'happily ever after' that romance novels are known for. We only get a shadow of that. The ending is a bit ambiguous and is unclear as to whether we are meant to imagine the future happy ending for ourselves or if it is being left open to a sequel.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book - the uniqueness of the setting, the vividness of the descriptions and the volume of research that it is obvious the author put into it all made the book come alive. It kept me up well into the early morning hours, turning the pages, anxious to see what happened. If you enjoy historicals, especially if you like new settings, you should check this one out.
This book is such a new release (just released on 8/9/11) that I'm not sure where to direct you to find a copy just yet, other than the publisher's website: Astraea Press. That link will take you directly to the page for the book and, I believe, there are various formats available directly through the Astraea Press store. I will post an update when it's available at other locations, like Barnes & Noble and/or Amazon, if I find out about it.